Removing the Option to Quit

Today is the first day that we have had actual Autumn-like weather.  It is dreary out, the days of sunshine prior are slowly erasing themselves from my memory, until it feels like every day for the past ten years has been this way.  This removal of hope that happens to me from time to time, it’s happening, and like I sometimes (but not always) do, this time I am refusing to give myself the option to quit on myself.

I have too much going for me to give up.  I can’t promise that the thoughts won’t sneak in, but for this moment and for at least today, I will not quit on myself.  I will keep plodding, one foot in front of the other, and I will come out victorious in the Spring, surviving and possibly even conquering this beast in my brain that seems to be so loud and demanding through the colder months.

Continuing on from my last post, that strategy of hunkering down and just slogging through it will remain, will keep on.  I am not going to detail the daily woes of life, because that gets me nowhere.  I accept that I am depressed, moving through a mixed cycle, cycling, paranoid, racing thoughts, nightmares, feeling unsafe, and avoiding most people, most places, most interactions.  I acknowledge and then I move forward.  Maybe tomorrow will be better, I really have no way of knowing for sure, but I can work my hardest to keep shuffling toward days filled with more sunlight and green carpets of grass and natural warmth on my skin.  I will not let today’s troubles swallow me whole, spitting me out to be useless and lying still on the carpet all day.

I will do the things I need to do, I will follow the lists, I will cherish my blessings, and I will persevere, because there is really no other acceptable answer.  Above all, remember that a simple kindness can be the push that gets a person through a hard day.  Don’t be shy, throw a pebble at my window.  I will likely be both surprised and grateful, and will almost certainly return the favor.

Throw a Bunch of Thoughts into the Pot

sunshine in three days

It has been a very up-and-down three days since I released from the residential crisis center.  To start with, the weather has been crap, or (to be more accurate) severe, and I am tired of rain, tired of thunder, and very tired of keeping up with two dogs who suffer from varying degrees of thunder and storm phobia.  I told my mom I was going to order them and myself a doggie thundershirt.  Yes, they really are driving me that crazy (ier???).

After reading a friend’s post about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I realized that some of my angst might be coming from a lack of sunlight, so I have my sunlamp blazing now, and I just pray it doesn’t throw me into a manic spiral.  It seems like the last month or so, I have experienced the true ick of rapid cycling, and to say it hasn’t been fun is an understatement.  Right now, this moment, I am desperate to feel just a little better, so in front of the sunlamp I will sit, until the bipolar devil on my left shoulder releases it’s talons from my flesh a bit.

I spoke with my peer mentor yesterday, and the conversation that I was worried about went just fine.  We are going to start meeting twice per week for 90 minutes each session, which is what I wanted.  She states that she never received any word that I was at the crisis house, including the Trust Quotes (9)voicemails I sent her and her unit secretary.  I don’t believe her.  I completely think she is lying, but it just shows that you can’t trust people.  Which is sad, because before all of that happened, I had been thinking about trusting her more than the average human being.  Now, I’m not so sure.  It isn’t easy for me to trust people in the first place, and my faith in people is easily lost.  What is different about me, is that I do give people many, many, many chances.  So, while I am not trusting her so much at the moment, she is going to get another chance.

Now that I have pushed through the suicidal ideation and self-harm thoughts of the past little while, I find I am stuck with huge spikes in my anxiety level.  I have spoken with a few people about it, and my therapist today even wanted me to go into the hospital.  I am not going into the hospital unless I am at a danger to harm myself, and I’m not, so therefore I will figure out the anxiety problem while I am living at home.

I’ve read a few interesting articles on evening anxiety, including this one because it talks directly about anxiety specifically in the evenings.  Every evening between four and five o’clock, I am having a very severe anxiety spike.  This has happened with regularity for over a week, since before I was in the crisis residence, and has happened at other times in my life as well.  I have a hard time when it gets dark outside, but its light at that time right now, although I do notice a further anxiety spike as the sun falls.  My mom and I jokingly have said for years that I have “sundowners,” which is a worsening of symptoms typical in Alzheimer’s patients at dusk.

Obviously I don’t have Alzheimer’s, but I have never been able to figure out why evenings are so difficult for me, other than maybe for trauma reasons.  I think it also has to do with my fear of the dark, which hasFear-of-the-Darkbecome more pronounced as I age for some reason.  Those little things that go “bump!” in the night…full body shiver.  I do believe all of that also relates to my issues with sleep and near-constant nightmares.  It is ALL related, I do believe.  I just have to figure out how to ease my unease.

 

image by listzblog.com

Dear God: You Forgot To Mention the Bad Parts

1 Corinthians 13:4-8New International Version (NIV)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

Dear God: I disagree with the Corinthians, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t run this one by you first, or you never would have approved it.  It’s a falsehood, God, am I right?  I mean, you theoretically put  us together, so one would think you would know. I have seen much about love in my little 33 years on this planet.  No, I’ve never been married, but I’ve been in a few major relationships and I know plenty of people who are “in love” or, at least mouthing the words at night before head meets pillow.

Love is not patient.  Love makes you crazy, it makes you rush into things, it causes you to call that person five times a day just to see what how they are doing.  Love makes  you do crazy things like show up at her work with a coffee and a sandwich, at two o’ clock in the afternoon.  Because you were NOT patient and couldn’t wait a minute longer to see her.

Love is not kind.  Not always.  Love can make us mean-spirited and jealous.  Love can drive a relationship into the ground, can rip a beating heart from a chest.  No, love can be cruel.  Ask anyone who has been through a bad breakup what they learned about love, if they feel that love is a kind entity.  I don’t think I have to tell you the particulars.

Love goes along with jealousy and rage and envy and anger and fear.  There is no fear without love and there is no love without fear.  You tell us not to fear, and then we find ourselves in the predicament where there is nothing to do but fear.  And then love quashes us, and we walk around broken, because of love.

There may be a love out there that transcends, maybe Your love, if one can wrap their head around that (I sure can’t at the moment) but it is not a love you see everyday.  Love without pain just doesn’t happen.  Most people will never experience it and some will throw it away because, yes, well, fear.

So, God, please get with the Corinthians.  I think you’re going to need a rewrite.

Sincerely, Rosa, who believes in the duality of love

Guilt and Shame

The hospice house was tucked in next to a green hill, down a long and winding private blacktop road.  It wasn’t what I had imagined, and it astonished me that I had lived in this town for almost 25 years and didn’t know how to find the house, not even knowing what section of town it was in.

As I parked and got out of my car, I looked at the entrance.  Everything was beautifully and thoughtfully planned out, cared for, tended to.  It was May and there were blooming plants everywhere.  When I came to the door, there was a plaque asking visitors to ring the doorbell.  Everything about this place seemed like a house, not somewhere Medicaid will pay to have you die in peace.

It was an even greater surprise to me that the volunteer who opened the door, was my supervisor from the very first job I ever had in high school.  It was wonderful to see him there, albeit a bit confusing because I never would have thought him to be interested in this type of work.  In “real life,” Charlie was intense and always seemed anxious.  Here at the hospice house, he spoke so quietly I almost didn’t hear him and there was no sound of tension in his voice.

I told him who I was there to see, and he brought me to The Bird Lady’s room.  She looked just as I had seen her last, although much thinner and with a yellowish-grayish cast to her skin.  This was one of her first few days in the hospice house, and she still had her wits about her.  I went over and gave her a big hug, and then noticed her evil sister sitting in the chair across from the bed.

I exchanged pleasantries with her sister, but I was there to make peace with The Bird Lady.  To make peace with who we were to each other in life, and to make peace with the fact that she was days from death.  The evil sister didn’t leave and consistently interrupted our conversation.  The Bird Lady eventually asked her sister to go find her some ice cream, and then I was able to spend a few minutes along with my dear godmother.

I don’t remember well what we talked about, but I do remember I didn’t cry.  I needed to see that she was ready to go, and it was very clear that she was, indeed, ready.  Most of my visit is blurry in my memory, except for a notable scene with her sister.  Something I am ashamed of to this day, something I feel deeply guilty about, something I can never change.

The Bird Lady:  Rose, will you wheel me out to the porch so I can have a cigarette?

Evil Sister:  You know that is against the rules and the nurse will have a fit if they find out.  Rose, you can’t take her out there.  What if she falls?

The Bird Lady:  Rose, will you?

Me:  (looking back and forth between sisters and considering my fear of the rules and my considerable fear of her sister)  I think we should wait until the nurse comes back and ask if it would be okay.  I’m sure they will let you.

The Bird Lady:  (losing control a bit) Dammit, Rose!  I just want to go outside for awhile.

Me:  Your sister scares me, Sondra, and I think we should wait for the nurse.  It shouldn’t be much longer he will pass through.

The Bird Lady:  Rose Talbott!  I have known you your entire life and you have NEVER been scared of ANYTHING!

And thus it went.  My godmother didn’t know the extent of my fear of other people, of the rules, of anything really.  She didn’t know how afraid I was of life in general, and she never would.  What she would know is that I refused to take her outside, as she was literally lying on her deathbed, and I wouldn’t grant that small request.

Denying that request replays this scene in my mind over and over, even years later.  The guilt and shame of it are often more than I can bear.  I could have given her a moment of peace, and I didn’t.  Guilt and shame.

And Then My Head Exploded

I am going to talk today about smoking cessation for what might be the millionth, and probably not the last, time.  It is all that is in my head and it is totally and completely consuming me.  If I don’t get it out here, I can’t work through it, and if I can’t work through it, I might start smoking again.  And I don’t want to do that.  I mean I really, REALLY don’t want to do that.

The last time I tried to quit, I had the support of a “quit coach” through my employer.  It was a great resource and I completely wasted it.  You could call almost 24/7/365 and someone would be there to answer your question, make suggestions, and sometimes just talk you out of taking that first puff.  I so wish I had that now, and kick myself for not using it properly when I had the chance.  I just wasn’t at a point in my life at that time that I was ready to quit.

It isn’t that my immediate family isn’t supportive, because they mostly are, but in some ways they are really not helping me.  Because quitting smoking often takes many attempts, there are members of my family who are not actively supporting and encouraging me because they think this is just another dry run.  You know, I get that, but how many times did I get behind you when you wanted to quit or start doing something that was hard?  How many times did you get my unequivocal support?  I really feel like saying, “Fuck you,” and running off screaming into the woods.

And there are my blog friends, who are probably more supportive than anyone except maybe my mom and DSB, who stop by to wish me well and tell me their stories of loved ones who have died from smoking and how happy they are I am quitting and how hard they are rooting for me.  Why can’t I get that from the people who know me?

And, as my friend Kim asks, “Why do you care?”  I really don’t know.  I wish I could just throw caution to the wind and not care at all, but the truth is I have always cared WAY too much about what anyone else thinks of me.  I have a constant fear of criticism, of judgment.  I am always worried that what I am doing is not good enough and I am going to be exposed for the fraud that I truly am, for all the world to see.

It comes down to the fact that I am far too judgmental of myself.  I can’t see these little slips and slides in my path toward quitting smoking as normal, as ordinary, as plain-Jane as it gets.  I let it build up until I believe it is pathological and obscene and so out-of-the-ordinary that not even my own mother would claim me.  And it really does get that bad.  And, you know, if I think that about MYSELF, I shudder to think what OTHER people think of me.  I’m sure it is ten times as bad!

And when I sit down and type this all out, I can see how silly and irrational I am being, but unfortunately, I can’t sit and type 24/7.  I have to go out there and live life and do laundry and buy groceries and socialize and fill my med box.  There are a lot of things I need to get out there and do, and I really am finding it difficult to do those things without this immense fear of judgment, especially while testing out my new wings of not smoking.

And I just realized that I am fearing judgment from anyone who reads this blog, as well, because I am worried that I am talking too much about quitting smoking.  Someone please slap me now, or my head is going to explode.

When Your Mind Lies

In about an hour, I am going to see my uncle and Dad and do some serious hanging out.  When I posted yesterday, I was very nervous about how I would be perceived, because I don’t have a very positive concept of myself.  After a WTF talk with DSB, I was able to see that I am successful in some non-traditional ways.

A lot of the time, it seems like my mind and inner voice are lying to me.  Telling me I am not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, successful enough.  One of the things DSB pointed out to me is that I am always comparing myself to others.  This is also something my current therapist was working on with me several months ago in therapy.

No one is better than anyone else.  No one is worse than anyone else.  I can’t wrap my head around it, really.  We are all the same.  But we’re not!  I know this pattern of thinking is maladaptive and I think it is something I need to work on a little harder.  I really don’t think we’re all the same.  I think we’re all different, but not necessarily better or worse than the other.  Unless it’s me we’re comparing.  I’m always worse.

It is a constant fight to stay in wise mind, or to even get into wise mind.  I spend so much time in emotion mind and very little in rational, that my worldviews and thoughts and feelings swing dramatically moment by moment.  I am constantly in flux.  Is that normal?  I don’t think it is, really.  There is very little that I believe in that I can stick with, no matter what.

I know there is love in my life.  That is one thing I know for sure, but even then, a lot of times I am living in fear that it will go away.  So even on that one, most certain thing, I see cracks in the pavement.

I am much less nervous about seeing my uncle today than I was yesterday.  After DSB had his WTF talk with me, some of it is sticking to the inside of my brain…that I am successful in my own, non-traditional way.  For right now, I’m okay with that and I just need to keep it in mind.

Self-Compassion, Another Sticking Point

I sure was in a bad place, or maybe just a strange place when I wrote last night’s post.  I was trying to explain to DSB why I felt like hell about not getting anything accomplished.  He didn’t try and say that I actually did get some things accomplished (which I did), he just gave it the same ultra-rational take as he does on everything: “Stop thinking about it and do it.  Just do it.”

Sometimes I feel like my life is a Nike commercial.  Being urged to “just do it” constantly.  It just isn’t that easy and I do wish it was.  After blogging, I would like to add that I gave myself a facial and took a shower.  It felt very nice, almost like I was rewarding myself for my breakthrough.  I am hoping I can do something similar tonight, if not tomorrow.

Part of DBT is that you are supposed to be kind to yourself.  I, and most people with a mood disorder, am not very good about it.  Because really, seriously, let’s just admit it, deep down (or maybe right at the surface), there is a good bit of self-loathing going on, at least some of the time.  At least that’s how it is for me.

I have taken a well-known self-compassion scale in DBT many times and found the same one here, that you can take yourself, if interested, as well.  My scores are miserable.  I am not kind to myself, am full of self-judgement, don’t feel part of humanity, feel isolated, am not mindful, and am over-identified.  I have taken the same scale many times throughout my “recovery process” and have always turned up the same.

How many people do you know that are self-compassionate?  I can’t think of many, but I don’t have a very big circle.  Maybe you know people who love themselves and care for themselves and are easy with themselves when their flaws are revealed.  That, according to the only two therapists I have had in my 17 year stint in DBT-based therapy, is what it’s all about.

To heal, you must be kind to yourself.  You must practice self-compassion.  Be easy on yourself, and give credit where credit is due.  It’s been 17 years and you think I would have “bought in” by now, right?  Why haven’t I?  Is it willfulness, rearing it’s ugly head?  Perhaps.  Is the lack of self-compassion learned behavior?  Certainly could be.  I can point to the major players in my life and look at how hard they are on themselves and think, “hmmmm, I wonder…”

It doesn’t really matter where it came from, just that it’s hear.  I do believe you, oh you two therapists out there, when you say that I need to be kinder and gentler with myself, do nice things for myself, treat myself well, cut myself some slack.  It is just so damn hard to do.

After my self-administered facial and long shower last night, I felt amazing.  If that is just one small step towards giving myself some kindness, I might even try it again.  There’s a little voice telling me I don’t deserve it, but the long term goal is to  quash that voice and start thinking about what the next kind thing is I can do for myself.